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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Terror in Orlando. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 12, 2016 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:01] KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we are hearing from the mayor here though, Wolf, is that it does not have a direct connection to what happened in Orlando.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Kyung Lah, thanks very much.
Erin Burnett picks up our coverage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it's dark. You don't know -- what's going on. We're following people, running, glasses are getting dropped and I'm getting covered in blood from other people.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Around 1:30 in the morning, we lost her inside the club. Just had another baby three months ago. The family is devastated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one can tell me where my son is, if he's been shot, if he's dead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't heard anything, dead body, if he's alive or if he's breathing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are making it clear, anyone who attacks our LGBT community, anyone who attacks anyone in our state will be gone after to the fullest extent of the law.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, as a gay community, we are a resilient people and we're going to have people lined out behind the blood banks. We're going to show what the good heart of humanity is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett live in Orlando tonight with the breaking news coverage of what is now the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
Updates have been coming in minute by minute throughout this day, what we know right now, less than 24 hours ago, about 300 people were out on a Saturday night at Pulse. It's a nightclub that caters to the gay community. It is just about a block or so behind me here in Orlando, 50 of those people are now dead, 53 more are wounded, fighting for their lives tonight. All of this because one man walked in indiscriminately opening fire, spraying the room with bullets and sending people running for their lives.
A witness captured the terrifying moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're shooting back and forth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell him to come.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. They're all shooting back and forth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Let's go. Go this way. Let's go home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They won't let you out of the area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Some people were hiding in bathrooms covering themselves with dead bodies to try to save lives. Others were able to crawl out through an air-conditioning unit. At this time, only seven victims have been identified by name so far, 43, we still do not know who they are that lost their lives early this morning.
The family and friends are desperately waiting and they're waiting outside of local hospitals trying to find out if there's any information, trying to find out if their loved one is among the living and fighting for their life tonight. Officials say there is no doubt the shooting was an act of terror and it was carried out by a 29-year- old man Omar Mateen.
Investigators tell CNN that Mateen called 911 during the attack, about 20 minutes in and in that call he pledged allegiance to ISIS. He also mentioned the Boston bombers during that call.
Now, the FBI says that Mateen was on their radar, in fact, for being a possible sympathizer to Islamic extremism. They say, though, there were no signs that he was planning the attack like the one he committed overnight. So, they knew who he was but they weren't actively watching him or monitoring him. All of this happened as across the country, police say they have
thwarted another threat and a man described as heavily armed arrested on his way to the Los Angeles gay pride. Police said they still don't know what his intentions were and they say he had an arsenal in his car and some chemicals that could be used to make things like pipe bombs.
Our live team coverage begins tonight, Drew Griffin and Brian Todd begin our coverage on the Orlando gunmen and his background. We also have our panel of law enforcement and terrorism experts and analysts who will be with us throughout these hours as we cover this story and as we get updates on exactly what happened.
I want to go, Drew, first to you. Drew, the apartment complex that you are at where the shooter live was evacuated. Why? What are they exactly looking for right now?
OK, it sounds like we actually -- sorry. We don't have Drew Griffin. Obviously, this is our rolling coverage. We're dealing with thunderstorms here and they're causing issues with our signal, as well.
Let's go to Brian Todd now.
Brian, I believe we have you. In terms of what we know from the FBI right now, you know, you've been reporting he was interviewed twice by the FBI and certainly he was a known quantity to them in 2013, 2014. They thought he was an ISIS sympathizer and they weren't actively watching him. So, what came out of their interviews and what does it mean when he was on their, quote/unquote, "radar"?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we know he was on their radar at least twice, but the FBI says both times their interviews with him were inconclusive.
[19:05:02] Now, according to the FBI, they first became aware of Mateen in 2013 when he made inflammatory comment to co-workers alleging terrorist ties. And in 2014, he came to their attention again because FBI official Ronald Hopper says Mateen had been in contact with a man named Moner Abusalha (ph).
Abusalha, according to our terrorism analysts, traveled from Florida to Syria. He received training. He traveled back to the United States and went back to Syria and staged a suicide bombing against Syrian forces, killing more than 30 people. That attack occurred in May 2014.
Analysts say Abusalha did that, however, on behalf of al Qaeda- affiliated groups and not ISIS.
As we've been reporting according to U.S. law enforcement officials, Mateen called 911 about 20 minutes or more into the attack to pledge allegiance to ISIS and he mentioned the Boston bombers, as well. Now, again, as far as the investigations into Mateen were concerned, the FBI says the interviews with him turned out to be inconclusive. Also, we have this on his possible motive. U.S. officials telling
investigators have talked to his family, Mateen's family, who had indicated that he had expressed anti-gay feelings in the past. He worked as a security guard for a private firm called G4S secure solutions. He worked for them for almost nine years.
Also, Erin, we have this just in. We spoke to two people who knew Mateen at two different schools in the Port St. Lucie area, at Martin County High School and Spectrum Junior and Senior High School in Stewart, Florida. Both of those schoolmates told us that Omar Mateen's mental state seemed to change after September 11th.
Both these schoolmates said Mateen said out loud at that time that Osama bin Laden was his uncle and not clear if he said it in a serious way or if they took him seriously. But they did tell us that he got brushback from a lot of kids when he said that. Another classmate however at Spectrum told us that Mateen didn't stand out to her as someone who could possibly do something like this, Erin.
BURNETT: Yes. All right. Brian Todd, thank you very much.
Such crucial background, people asking the question if he calls 911 and declares allegiance to ISIS, does that mean anything and was he trying to get attention? But obviously, there does appear to be history here known to the FBI and interviewed multiple times.
Drew Griffin is at the gunman's apartment complex which was evacuated earlier.
Drew, what have they found there?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You know, they're really not saying anything about what they've found. They're still in there, Erin, partially the apartment buildings have been open for others to go in, but where he lived, the building still remains off-limits even to the people that live around him. Very tight-lipped here. They're trying to feed all of the information to the FBI in Orlando.
So, we're not getting much on the ground except from people who did know him and as Brian kind of alluded, there were two different people and there was a happy go lucky guy who was a security guard, fully licensed and then you hear little whispers of outrage and speaking out about what was happening in the Middle East.
We talked to one man, a neighbor who saw him in this neighborhood walking with this son he said, occasionally, and also encountered him at the local county courthouse where this dead suspect was actually a security guard and was one of the first people that you met. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DNAIEL HASSERD, NEIGHBOR: He seemed pretty normal to me?
GRIFFIN: Professional. HASSERD: Oh, yeah, always.
GRIFFIN: As a security guard? Dressed as a security guard?
HASSERD: Gun and everything.
GRIFFIN: Have you seen him walking around the neighborhood?
HASSERD: Not walking. I always seen him pull through here and he's been staying here for a while now. Other than that, he seemed pretty normal to me.
GRIFFIN: What do you make of this?
HASSERD: It's crazy. It's definitely. Nothing happens like that. This is a nice, calm neighborhood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: We also talked to some of his friends who partied with him in years past and talked about what a jovial guy he was and never had a mean thing to say, but like we say, there's another side here and the whispers in the community, talking about certain outbursts that may have taken place that we haven't quite confirmed yet.
We've also been to the gun store where he bought his guns recently and while there's no comment from the gun store there, Erin, there's a lot of security camera and the officials' investigators were there digging through the files and also looking, we're told for digital images which may include this person practicing shooting at an indoor shooting range there. We'll continue to follow these leads there and but right now, as our coverage shows, a lot more questions than answers as to why something this horrific would take place from this person -- Erin.
BURNETT: Incredibly horrific and how he picked this target, why he picked this target. We will be back with Drew.
We, of course, have our experts standing by and our reporters as we're continuing to break many angles of this story right now.
[19:10:03] I want to bring in Peter Bergen now who, of course, our CNN terrorism expert who interviewed Osama bin Laden.
Peter, let me ask you, what do you -- how do you make sense of this right now. From the information that we have, the combination of choosing this target that you have some sort of religious fervor. He was known to the FBI as an ISIS sympathizer. They didn't expect anything like this and then he chooses a gay nightclub.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Erin, it's normal and typical that perpetrators of jihadi terrorist attacks in the U.S. are well known to the FBI. We saw that in the case of Major Nidal Hasan who killed 13 people in Ft. Hood and the San Diego field office was very suspicious of the fact that he was in touch with a militant cleric in Yemen over email on multiple occasions. We also saw that in the Boston marathon attack where the older brother
in that attack was interviewed by the FBI following a tip by the Russians that he might be a militant. The FBI has some information in the system and they've interviewed the perpetrator before an attack actually happens. But, of course, they can't keep open a case indefinitely if there isn't sufficient derogatory information and they closed, unfortunately, the cases on this guy in 2013 and 2014.
You know, another point, I think, Erin here, is that this guy, Omar Mateen, he's -- as far as we can tell, he has no formal affiliations with a foreign terrorist organization. This is very typical for the attacks that we've seen in the United States and every single terrorist attack we've seen in the United States since 9/11. Lethal terrorist attack has involved an American citizen and an American legal resident.
They're not refugees or recent immigrants and they're operating either as lone wolves or in normal connections to foreign terrorist organizations and they makes them hard to detect and they're sending emails to foreign terrorist organizations overseas and they are meeting with co-conspirators in the United States and the kinds of meetings that would allow the FBI to monitor them. And you know, by the law of averages we will continue to see these kinds of attacks even though the FBI has mounted a pretty aggressive campaign to look at these.
So, Tom Fuentes is with me, obviously, a former FBI director. General Mark Hertling also here with me here in Orlando.
General, let me ask you, this is a terrifying thing on many levels, and we now are starting to learn that the FBI did know who this man was, they had brought him for questioning before they weren't actively watching him, but they were aware of him. How concerning is that to you?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's the transfer of intelligence from the guys who collect it. Tom would be the best to answer that to the guys that execute the operation.
And in this case, multiple times they interviewed this individual, but they didn't have enough to hold him or to prosecute or to bring him to trial. That's the problem. Unless you have that, our rule of law says you can't do anything you have to keep passing them back out.
BURNETT: And, Tom Fuentes, as Drew were just reporting, he bought at least one of these weapons within the past few days. That's what they said in the press conference earlier today here in Orlando, and he was able to buy that with the minimal background check as his job with the security guard.
But as someone that was questioned as an ISIS sympathizes, would that have raised a red flag anywhere, or is this purchase of a weapon something they wouldn't have been aware of? TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, Erin, it would
not raise a red flag. And the reason is, in this situation, you're seeing an example where you are seeing the Bill of Rights kicking in to protect someone like this. The first amendment that he can think bad thoughts and say bad things and if they can't show him being actively in pursuit of doing a bad thing, there's not much you can do with that and we have thousands of individuals in this country that the FBI has talked to just based on that.
And, of course, the Second Amendment rights -- we've had this debate now for a long time that if someone is a suspect in a crime or on the no-fly list or the FBI's talked to them, should they be denied the right to purchase a firearm and the rulings have been no, they shouldn't, and they should be, as long as they're not convicted felons and he's not, allowed to go ahead and buy that weapon.
So, in this case, the other thing is, too, at the time he was interviewed, he may not have been as radical as he became within the last couple of days. According to ATF, he made the purchase of the long gun and the handgun just this week, and so, what the FBI officials will tell you is the period that they refer to as flash to bang. In other words, the time it takes to radicalize and carry out the violent act has become so short in the last year or two that that makes it also impossible.
It used to take longer to radicalize somebody, exchanges of emails with people of Awlaki in Yemen when he was alive. But they don't see that now. They see somebody that can go off the deep end in a matter of days, obtain the weapons and go commit the acts we've seen.
[19:15:05] BURNETT: And, General Hertling, in terms of getting the weapons into the gun -- into the club right behind us, I would imagine that would be the easy part. You're not going through any sort of a check or metal detector.
HERTLING: No, they didn't have checks or metal detectors. The thing that concerns me a little bit is, he fired a lot of rounds in there. That shows a little bit of training. If he had an AR-15, that means he was rapidly changing clips, that takes a whole lot of training and practice and someone should have seen that. If he was doing that at a range or some place else, you have to drop one clip when you use all the weapons and putting another one in.
BURNETT: Someone should have been seeing him prepare for that.
HERTLING: Someone should have been seen him prepare for that. Yes.
BURNETT: And as Drew Griffin reporting, so our viewers know, that is something they're looking at on his phone to see if there's video of him doing any sort of practice as you're indicating might have had to have happened.
Tom Fuentes, what do you make of the other part of Orlando, the police that were involved obviously in the shooting last night in the cross fire are now, you know, basically on hold pending the full investigation? What does that say to you? FUENTES: Not much because that's official policy. Any police
officer-involved shooting in Florida automatically gets referred to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. So, the officers get put on a temporary suspension, given administrative duties at the most and while the investigation proceeds and it's done basically by the state, by FDLE for the state of Florida.
BURNETT: All right. Peter Bergen, Tom Fuentes, General Mark Hertling -- thanks to all who are going to be with us as our live special coverage continues from Orlando.
Cries for help. One man that was trapped inside texting his mother as the shooter was heading towards him and a community in mourning here in Orlando coming together. Thousands of donors ling up to donate blood for the victims and desperate families are waiting for word from the hospitals. We only know the names of a few of the victim seven of the 50.
And as we go to a very brief break, pictures of the Stonewall and in New York City and that is the birthplace of the gay rights movement. Tonight, a vigil. Crowds gathering to show their support for the victims of the shooting.
[19:20:25] BURNETT: Flags across the nation are lowered to half-staff on orders from President Obama tonight. This is in honor of the victims of the Orlando terror attack. Fifty people are killed, at least 53 are wounded in hospitals here in Orlando.
Tonight, here is President Obama speaking earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school or in a house of worship or a movie theater or in a nightclub, and we have to decide if that's the f country we want to be and to actively do nothing is a decision, as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We know the American-born terrorist Omar Mateen had been on the FBI's radar. I want to bring back our panel back, our national security analyst, Peter Bergen, our senior law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, and here in Orlando is our military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.
General, let me start with you. Some of these information that we have just coming in and literally, the story is developing by the moment here. The shooter had been married for a time, reports of domestic abuse, domestic violence and was not married and they're also now talking to the ex-wife, the ex-wife's fiance.
When you put all of this together does any of this raise concern to you? I mean, obviously, in hindsight you can put together dots in any scenario, but when you look at this.
HERTLING: It also fits the pattern of one of the things that he allegedly had a great deal of disrespect for gays and lesbians. Part of that is all concluding that this guy was more than a terrorist. He was -- he was hate filled and I think we're talking about a hate crime primarily here, but using the excuse of I'm going to join ISIS and that will all be find are found out in the investigation and as they start breaking things down in his computer and all of these are signals that someone should have picked up on, maybe not law enforcement, but people around him.
BURNETT: And, Tom Fuentes, of course, you also have the reality of the situation. There are just so many questions tonight. His background, where he was from and when exactly he might have been radicalized if that's what this is, but you have the similarities here to the Bataclan attack in Paris and the horrific nightclub attack.
What do you think this is more like? Islamic terror like that was or more like a hate crime? I mean, yes, he picked a soft target, but it was very clear he had a very specific homophobia and issue with the gay and lesbian community.
FUENTES: Well, Erin, I think it's important for us to remember we always want to attach our values and our judgment as a free nation on what individuals do when they don't agree with those values. If you follow ISIS and the teachings that they put out, their version of Sharia law, there is no tolerance for being gay, there is no tolerance actually in some cases for being a woman, there's no tolerance for being a Christian or a Jew or any other kind of infidel. By their definition, if you're not ISIS, they'll kill you even if you're al Qaeda. Even if you're another Islamic extreme group, you're still an enemy of theirs.
We keep trying to do that, yes, this is all of the above, a hate crime, a terrorist crime, ISIS-inspired crime, if you will, but this is almost standard operating procedure for them, and as mentioned earlier, ISIS throws gay people off of buildings and kills them that way or stones them to death. So, this is not a tolerant group of individuals that are in charge of ISIS.
BURNETT: And, Peter Bergen, we now are understanding, right, that there are ties that he may had ties to someone who went to Syria and you have various related ISIS social media accounts today celebrating this horrific attack, but not directly taking responsibility. So, it seems at this point, right, that this is much more like a San Bernardino case, where you have an American, somebody who is self- radicalized and isn't necessarily the right term, but somebody who is operating more as a lone wolf and not directed by ISIS in the way that we saw in Brussels and the way that we saw in Paris.
BERGEN: Exactly. I think it's very similar to the San Bernardino case in the sense that the perpetrators are the same age pretty much. In this case, they were 29 and in the case of San Bernardino, the male was 27.
[19:25:04] Both of them had solid jobs. They were not, you know, people who were unemployed, and it sort of fits the profile of what we've seen in the United States and I've examined 300 cases since 9/11, and the average age of the people involved is 29 and many of them are married, about a third and this guy was married and the marriage didn't end well, but they're not the young, hotheads of popular imagination.
BURNETT: And, General Hertling, you're talking about the fact he had to train to be able to operate and shoot as many rounds as he did.
BURNETT: How long would it take for him to train? Considering he was a security guard and presumably he had some sort of firearms experience to begin with and that's why he had such minimal background checks to buy these weapons in the past few days.
HERTLING: Not long to train or to learn how to exchange the clip, but what is important is someone would have seen him doing that. They would have known that he had purchased multiple clips, that he had loaded them with a lot of rounds. This is just something that someone should have known about.
But again, this is something that's not only connected to ISIS and an ideology perhaps. An individual that doesn't know the ideology as well as some of the imams and caliphates, but this is a guy that's filled with hate, so that's also driving him, and I think that's what the investigation is going to find.
BURNETT: Tom Fuentes, the family so far, and we don't know a lot about him. Of course, we know his parents came from Afghanistan and he was born in New York City. So he was born in the United States, but there are a lot of questions about this very issue.
I mean, what is your take in terms of whether how he picked this target? This bottom line question, they're saying it was a couple of weeks ago he saw two gay men kissing and he was filled with anger about that and they're saying that is what sparked this and that seems really hard to believe that suddenly you see something like that and you decide to do something like this?
FUENTES: Again, to you and I, it's hard to believe. To people like him, no problem. That's exactly what they believe that this is an offense against god and it's their duty to kill people that follow that ideology of freedom, of being gay or a member of the community. That's not something they tolerate and we keep losing track of that.
And even though he's an American born, if they start becoming believers in this radical extreme form of Islam, that's what that form teaches. That's what they're learning to believe is something that god wants them to do. They're doing the right thing when they kill people like that or behead them or throw them off buildings.
BURNETT: All right. All of you are going to be staying with me. We're going to take a break as we have new details coming in. Peter Bergen, Tom Fuentes and General Mark Hertling, staying with me, thanks to all.
Up next, we'll have the breaking details that we are getting and of course, the vigils and the reaction from around the world. Muslim leaders are now calling for unity saying the Orlando gunman is an aberration. More on how that community is doing tonight.
And you're looking at live pictures of the home of the shooter's ex- wife. Her fiance is expected to make a statement. We will bring that to you live when it happens.
We'll be right back.
BURNETT: All right. We are back in south Orlando. The terror attack just hours ago and I am here at the Pulse club. You have not slept.
RAY RIVERA, DJ AT PULSE NIGHTCLUB: No.
BURNETT: Since this happened. Just to start with, you're sitting there doing a job. What happened?
RIVERA: It was about 2:05 and it closes at 2:30 and I was on the patio, and I heard something like firecrackers and I heard it again and I hear - and I hear it again and that's when everybody came barreling out to get out and was jumping over the fences and stuff, and two people went underneath my DJ booth and it was a guy and a girl.
The guy - he took off and the girl was down there panicking. So I kind of told her she needed to be quiet and as soon as there was a break in the shots then I kind of just pushed her and said come on, let's go and we're out the door and the cops were having us go around the corner where there were no bullets or anything.
BURNETT: And so when we hear about the fact that he was shooting and reloading and shooting and reloading, was how many shots? I know it's impossible to know how many. Did it just go on and on?
RIVERA: Yes. It was one of those things where you were just trying to get out.
BURNETT: You were just trying to get out. And did you see him? Did you see him actually shooting anyone?
RIVERA: I heard the shots getting closer and closer and at that point I said it's time to go.
BURNETT: And were people - how quickly did it take for them to realize what was happening? (INAUDIBLE) this is the end of the night.
RIVERA: Everybody was - everybody was - once it started happening everybody kind of bailed and looked for a way out. It started off as a regular Saturday night as it always does and at that point it just -- chaos ensued.
BURNETT: Given that it was close to closing, we now know 50 people have died and 53 people are fighting for their lives in hospitals here in Orlando and how many people even on the patio area where you are, at that outdoor area, how many people were still there, do you think?
RIVERA: There was quite a few, probably 20, 30, maybe, something like that, but you know, it's a shame because everybody was having a great time just like they always do on Sundays and this happened - that's my family. I've worked there for about two years and all the bartenders, the wait staff and the owner, that's my family.
BURNETT: And those people, the ones that you know, your family, have you spoken to them and accounted for them?
RIVERA: Some of them aren't doing anything and that's - whether it be here or the other club, that's my family. And I just want to make sure they all got out. I know a couple of them were on the bus with me and stuff like that, so I want to make sure everybody's OK.
BURNETT: So you were helping that man and woman - you sort of hide them underneath your DJ booth.
RIVERA: He kind of took off and the girl was freaking out and I said come on, let's go.
BURNETT: And you helped her and how did you and she end up getting out?
RIVERA: There was a side door, like a side gate door - we just both barrel out there and the cop was telling us to go that way so we followed his instructions and went behind my car and the other officer showed up and told us to get behind the wall.
BURNETT: This is about, you're saying five or 10 minutes into the entire horrible incident.
RIVERA: Three to five minutes.
Yes, the backup came and they got the situation in check and, you know, the OPD officers that were telling us to go back had us go back and they were real nice, giving us water and we were out there until about 6:00, 7:00 this morning.
BURNETT: And you haven't slept.
RIVERA: No. Honestly, I just want to make sure -
BURNETT: What do you see when you close your eyes?
RIVERA: Nothing. I - I honestly don't want to go to sleep. I just want to make sure everybody over there is good and you know, the owners - she's good. Like I said, that's my family. All of the bartenders and the DJs and there were other DJs there and I just want to make sure everybody's safe.
BURNETT: What happens next for you then?
RIVERA: I don't know. I have to wait to see how this goes out and get with everybody and see what we're going to do. I'm going to try to get some sleep, though.
BURNETT: Ray, thank you very much.
RIVERA: No problem.
BURNETT: Ray Rivera, as I said, was the DJ on the patio at the Pulse nightclub early this morning.
Sanjay Gupta joins me now and of course, we have seen so many people, now we've had people over cell phones texting social media, pleas for help and all of these different ways people were trying to get help as they were hiding and hiding in bathrooms and just absolutely horrific what we now know has happened.
Sanjay, the big question here is the condition of people who are fighting for their lives. We know that they have asked repeatedly for blood donors and they've asked again and again, 53 people are at least in the hospital tonight. What do you think their condition might be given that they are asking for so much blood?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, these are all critically injured patients. Let me just add, Erin, obviously, we talk a lot about the physical injuries now, but you can just hear the psychological trauma in the interview you just did with Ray and that's going to be something that's going to be dealt with, as well, over the next hours, days and weeks, but within the hospital, what we know is that 46 patients were taken to a level-one trauma center - there's only one level one trauma center in that area - Orlando Regional Medical Center.
So 46 patients showing up. We know that 26 operations need to be performed and then the other patients will go up into critical care units and many of the patients, even the ones who don't get operation, Erin, oftentimes still need blood, for example, injuries to the liver often times require significant amounts of blood. The situation is this in a level-one trauma center, you have a trauma surgeon who is always there and obviously one surgeon would not be able to handle the number of patients coming in and that surgeon called for two more surgeons and subsequently they have six surgeons that were operating, trying to perform all these operations.
They have to determine who is the sickest, who is the most likely to survive and who needs an operation and how quickly they need that operation and all of that, Erin, is happening real-time. Simultaneously, your question about the blood, you have a fair amount of blood at a blood bank at a level one trauma center but again as much as you prepare, think, predict something like this you will probably never have enough blood so they got to triage the blood, as well and determine just how much blood is necessary and try to get by with as little as possible and as you point out, ask for help, Erin. BURNETT: And Sanjay, one thing I think that shocked and terrified the
nation as this story was starting to come to light this morning was people heard that there had been 20 people dead which is a horrific, horrific shooting, and then all of a sudden that number just went from 20 to 50 just like that. It just went from 20 to 50. What do you make of that and the fact that that seemed to happen so suddenly?
GUPTA: Well, the types of injuries that we're talking about with what I'm hearing was an assault rifle. Oftentimes, because - whether it was people who had survived initially for the first few minutes after their injury, but then died or in no way could have survived longer or just, you know, in the chaos of a situation like this and the confusion of a situation like this you - the initial numbers are almost always wrong. They're wrong from people who were there and they're even wrong initially oftentimes from people when arrive on the scene from health care because another part of this, Erin is just having covered a lot of these stories as you have, sometimes it's just unfathomable the number you're about to report and it's very hard to believe that you're about to say that 50 people have died like this and I think people want to check, double-check and triple check that what they're saying is correct.
I should point out again given the nature of these types of injuries, the number of wounds that we're hearing that people suffered that were in the hospital, there were no patients, for example, who were brought in with head injuries and there were patients who were brought in with torso - that's chest and abdomen and extremity injuries, why? Because many of the patients who had head injuries did not survive. That's why. That's what happens with these sorts of injuries with these sorts of weapons.
BURNETT: All right. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much, and coming up, as we continue to try to cover this story, to try to comprehend all of us what happened, this is the home of the shooter's ex-wife in Boulder, Colorado. We do know that he had been married. It was a troubled marriage with allegations of domestic abuse.
Her fiance, his ex-wife's fiance is expected to make a statement any moment and we're going to go there live as soon as it happens. We'll be right back here, live from Orlando.
BURNETT: Last night's shooting at a gay nightclub here in Orlando is the deadliest terror attack on American soil since September 11th.
I want to now bring in Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. He joins me here in Orlando.
You, of course, live here, just a few moments away. What was your reaction when you woke up to this headline this morning? SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Complete shock. In the meantime, I've
talked, for example to the Connecticut senators and that was 26 people in Sandy Hook. Now this is 50 and climbing and then there are people down there in that hospital that are fighting for their lives. So it's a tough time.
BURNETT: And what are you able to tell us at this time about what you know, about the man here Omar Mateen, the shooter?
NELSON: The FBI is joining the dots. They've got a team over there in Fort Pierce interviewing all the family, and people have come forward. At the end of the day I think what you're going to find is ISIS inspired, but it's also a hate crime of being anti-gay. Whatever it is, it's terrorism and terrorism tries to inflict fear and that's what we have to overcome. You can't let these guys win. They win if we succumb to fear. So we've got to go on, dig deep and go on with our daily lives.
BURNETT: One thing that we understand now, senator, that there are still so many questions about was when you talk about where he's from. He was living almost two hours away from here and yet he gets, shows up here just at 2:00 in the morning and half an hour before closing he drives all the way to Orlando to this particular nightclub. Do you have any idea as to why? Why he picked this place, this club?
NELSON: Well, it was obviously planned along with his arsenal weapons and his ammo and to come from 80, 90 miles away it was planned. He obviously had scoped out this place. I think we will find out now when the dots are connected just exactly how he learned.
BURNETT: So you think he had been here before and he had picked and planned?
NELSON: I think so. He at least knew about this nightclub and the fact that 300 people would be in a confined enclosure then that was ripe for his attack.
BURNETT: What do you make of the timing of it just after 2:00 in the morning, I know, closing time. We were just talking to the DJ and he said closing time was 2:30 and people were starting to clear out. He didn't do it in the middle of the night. He did it at 2:00 a.m., obviously, this is perhaps, you know, you're putting the dots together, but what are your thoughts about why so close to closing?
NELSON: I don't think there's any significance to that. Certainly not from any warped sense of religion or whatever, but he certainly did it, but let's stand tall and don't let them win.
BURNETT: SO you're saying this is a hate crime and this is ISIS inspired?
NELSON: Yes. BURNETT: But would you be so --
When people are saying this is Islamic extremism, this is Islamic terrorism and this is ISIS. Would you say that's fair to say directly or no?
NELSON: When the FBI does their report, I think there's enough evidence to say that he was at least inspired, but whether you're inspired or whether you are actively talking to ISIS the result is the same and it's like the lone wolf. You can't be 100 percent all the time because it's so difficult. If someone is not communicating for our intelligence apparatus to be able to penetrate that communication.
BURNETT: And our understanding, of course, is that he had been questioned multiple times by the FBI. They knew who he was. They knew he was an ISIS sympathizer but they didn't think that he was planning anything like this and they obviously had nothing to indicate that.
BURNETT: Of course, they didn't. Does that concern you? Of course, it concerns you, but that perhaps what is most terrifying for people. They know who he was. They were aware, and they weren't actively watching but they knew who this person was and it wasn't as though he came out of left field.
NELSON: When we get that report, obviously that question had to be answered and the case was closed in 2013 and then there was apparently some conversation with somebody going to Syria or coming back.
NELSON: That case was closed. That's a reasonable question. Why was it closed? But the FBI is doing everything that they can at this point.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Nelson, thank you very much, I appreciate you coming over and Senator Nelson lives right here in Orlando.
The reaction to the Orlando massacre is pouring in from across the United States and also around the world, the most deadliest terror attack on American soil since 9/11 and there is such an outpouring of support coming in, people have been flocking in Orlando to donate blood because of the victims and how injured they are. People coming to try to do anything they can do to try to save lives and the people at hospitals just near where we are standing tonight who are so desperately fighting for their lives, tonight.
BURNETT: In the wake of the sheer horror just hours ago here in Orlando there's been an outpouring of support throughout the city. People have been coming together to donate much-needed blood to the victims. With the types of injuries that we saw blood is desperately needed and lines have been stretching out the door in some places. One of them, we're showing you here, donors lined up through a parking lot wrapping all the way around a building, all to try to do something, to try to contribute to help those who are fighting for their lives tonight.
Medical officials tell us there is still a huge need for blood and specifically O-negative blood. Again, let me say that O-negative blood. The city is setting up a special hotline for relatives of the victims who need information at this time. We only know seven of the 50 who lost their lives and of course, 53 others who are fighting for their lives in hospitals here in Orlando at this hour.
Nick Valencia joins me now from the Orlando Regional Medical Center. Many of the victims are there, getting treatment in surgery as we speak. Nick?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, it has been a frenzy of emotion here outside the hospital. We're outside what has effectively been up until a short time ago the staging area for friends and family waiting on news of their loved ones.
We hear this saying a lot that someone was at the wrong place at the wrong time when something bad happens, but those that we've spoken to say no, their loved ones were exactly where they wanted to be, exactly where they were meant to be and it was this terrorist that ruined their lives and the lives of so many others here in this community. It was two hours ago that three doctors across the street from the medical center to this hotel where the family and friends were waiting and delivered what we could only assume was the terrible news that their loved ones had passed away and it was shortly after those doctors left that there were heart wrenching screams in the streets and people bursting into tears getting the news.
Some people though are expressing some frustration and only officially there have been at least six, perhaps seven now, officially named by city officials here that though won't get official word whether or not their loved ones were dead or alive until as late as 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning and that waiting to find out whether or not their loved one is still with us, that is the painful part about this all. Even still, though, there are many here that are holding on to hope, Erin. It's really all they have.
BURNETT: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you very much.